(Citation Index to the Bible)

Eugene Garfield, Documentation Consultant

The access points in conventional analytical indexes are usually subject headings or their equivalents. The research scholar, however, is quite often interested in tracing very specific ideas rather than general topics. More often than not these ideas cannot be expressed by any combination of index entries available to the indexer. In contrast, the access point in the citation index is essentially the complete idea or essence of an individual article, book, verse, etc., both apparent and implied. Thus, it has already been demonstrated that the citation index principle applies to the legal literature (Shepard’s Citations), scientific literature, patents, and reports filing. As a further demonstration of the broad application of this principle, the author proposes to compile a citation index to the Old Testament. As contrasted with the bibliographic antecedents which one usually finds in chronological bibliographies, patent references, and the like, the citation index provides the user with the bibliographical descendants of original works, thereby permitting the scholar to trace very carefully the history and development of specific ideas.

Presented at
Penn-Sherwood Hotel, Philadelphia, Pa.
November 2-4, 1955


Citation Index to the Old Testament

The title of this brief talk might better have been: "Citation indexes: new starting points in bibliographical research." For the librarian, the starting point in a bibliographical search is usually the card catalog or the periodical index. In contrast, the starting point for the research scholar will not be the catalog or index, and he will less frequently think of his job as a search. His background on the subject in question will generally be much more specialized than the reference librarian or information officer. He will generally be aware of one or more significant papers already published in the area of his specialized interests. Thus, he will want to use the citation index as a starting point rather than the broad scope indexes.

In the citation index the access points are not subject headings, which to the librarian seem rather specific, but to the scholar seem very general. The access point will be individual articles, books, etc. Indeed, they may be particular pages of articles or books, depending upon the depth with which the citation index is constructed. This depth will in large part be determined by the amount of research that has been done previously. The greater the number of citations to a particular work, then the finer is the breakdown needed. Thus, in a citation index there would be given the specific page of the citing as well as the page or passage of the article cited. This is extremely important, because the citation index is designed to deal with complex thoughts usually not revealed by the seemingly specific subject headings assigned by indexers.

The access point in the citation index is seemingly the title of a book or article. Actually its essence, or meaning, stated and implied, is the real access point. Thus, it varies with each user, because the meaning or significance of a work varies with the user's frame-of-reference. In part, it answers the objections of those who rightfully claim that the titles of articles do not always accurately describe their content or their portent. Therefore Citation Indexes complement the conventional subject index and are not intended as substitutes.

Now let us examine further the differences between the conventional subject index and that of the citation index. Begin with the actually indexing. A book is received in the library and the cataloger examines it carefully. He assigns several "analytics" based on the general subject matter involved. Perhaps it is a history of invention in the United States. The obvious analytical entries might be "U. S. History" with "invention" as a sub-heading or "Invention" as a main head and "history" as a sub-heading. A careful examination of the book might reveal that there is a significant discussion of patent problems indicating the need for "Patents" as an additional analytic.

The approach of the indexer preparing a citation index would be entirely different. Two approaches are available to him. One, he can limit himself to collecting all formal citations indicated in the text. E.g., reference might be made to Edison's first patent on the light bulb. The page on which that had appeared would provide a new entry in our citation index under the patent number in question. In another chapter of the book,  a reference may even have been made to a verse of the Bible. This would provide an entry in our citation index under the verse in question. Finally, reference may be made to an article in the Journal of the Patent Office Society. Again this would add an entry under the appropriate section of the citation index where articles in that journal were listed. Quite obviously this could result, in some instances, in hundreds of citation entries per book. Actually, when indexing periodical articles the number of citations is found to average about ten. Since the book really represents an aggregate of articles, it is to be expected that there would be a corresponding increase in citations.

A second approach would be interpretive citation indexing. Based on the subject matter disclosed in the text, the indexer himself can provide citations that relate passages to what has been published elsewhere. Thus, a chapter in a novel may obviously be based on a story in the Old Testament. It is not common practice to make formal citations in such works. And in non-fiction works the author may not be aware of the need for such a citation. This type of interpretive indexing is to be compared with exegesis.

I have made these allusions to the Bible intentionally. Mr. W. C. Adair has already discussed in American Documentation, Shepard's Citations, a citation index known to every lawyer. I have discussed citation indexes for science and patents elsewhere, Science 122, 108-11 (1955)]. I should like to discuss briefly the possible application of the citation index principle to biblical research. Probably no single book has received as much study as the Bible. Yet, as a student of library science I was quite amazed to learn of the fantastic bibliographical deficiencies of biblical research, in spite of the thousands of people working in this field, past and present. I don't intend to go into the reasons for these deficiencies, which may be better known to some of you. However, I could not help but be drawn to the attractive idea of a citation index to the Bible as being of inestimable aid to the secular as well as clerical scholar.

There are many indexes, commentaries, concordances, etc. that have been compiled--a good many representing life-time projects. None of them provide the information to be found in the citation index, nor are they usually of permanent value. A scholar may compile an extensive analytical subject index to the Bible, but this index must gradually lose its usefulness as time and terminology change. The citation index, however, is a constantly growing bibliographical aid, not affected by the vicissitudes of language, and like the concordance can be of permanent value. Conventional subject indexes are also of permanent value, but their use becomes more difficult with every passing year.

In the citation index to the Old Testament the user will find listed for each verse, according to the numbering found in the King James Version, all those books, articles, poems, quotations, titles of books and plays, etc. that had been based on the verse in question. The simplified citation index will only contain citations where the verse in question had actually been cited. I don't think it is necessary to indicate how such information could be used to advantage. If an interpretive citation index were compiled, almost amounting to a formalized Bible commentary, citations would be added even though the verse in question had not been cited, but was "implied". This index will include many secular sources not covered by existing indexes and hopefully will present to the student of the Bible an array of conflicting opinions on the meaning of Bible verses.

The standardized King James notation for chapter and verse makes such an undertaking feasible, since such a notation system is ultimately needed in a large index. Thus, it can be seen that the technique of the citation index can be employed to advantage in a variety of ways. I certainly think it warrants careful investigation. The specialist will best visualize its application once the principle is completely thought out. In closing I should like to indicate one or two examples that will illustrate concretely some of the advantages of the citation index to the Bible.

George Sarton, in his History of Science, when discussing certain tools used in Egypt alludes to Joshua 5:2, "At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time" (p. 235).

Of interest to any biblical scholar is not only Sarton's discussion of instruments but also his comment that the translation, in the Authorized Version, "sharp knives" is wrong;  the correct meaning of harbot zurim is "flint knives".

This is further borne out in correlating the corresponding passage in the new Thomson Septuagit: "And at that time the Lord said to Joshua, Make thee stone knives of the hardest flint, and having again a fixed abode circumcise the children of Israel" (p. 363).